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Ja'Marr And Jalen: Bengals' Opening Victory Features Two Touch-And-Go Stories Of NFL Preseason

Ja'Marr Chase's first NFL touch, a 16-yard screen pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Ja'Marr Chase's first NFL touch, a 16-yard screen pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

A classic NFL preseason opener for the Bengals Saturday night in Tampa, a 19-14 victory where they ended the first series of the GOAT's Super Bowl defense with a sack shared by two of their offseason blueprints on the edge: third-rounder Joseph Ossai and $60 million free-agent sacker Trey Hendrickson.

For rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and the people that made him the fifth pick in the draft, they just wanted to see him get a touch to get him acclimated after nearly two years since his last catch in the 2019 national title game.

While Chase wanted a touch, second-year player Jalen Davis, a slot cornerback on the NFL fringe, needed a touch. The fact that he got two touches that turned into tipped interceptions for his teammates in back-to-back third quarter drives made for the biggest game of his life.

For Chase, it was simply checking a box. Once he ran with the 16-yard screen down the left side, he was able to depart and get ready for Friday night's game (7:30-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Washington. It was touch-and-go.

"Practice was much faster than the game we played today," Chase said. "But (the play) happened so fast, I couldn't even what happened after that."

What it was is the kind of play they believe makes Chase such a versatile threat. He looked more like a running back on that play, set up by quarterback Brandon Allen's play fake to the real running back, Joe Mixon, and quick throw to the other side. But they also know Chase can go deep like, well, Tee Higgins, the receiver they took last year with the coveted first pick in the second round.

While Chase wanted to play a second series, Davis, who has been trying to get a foothold in the league since he came out of Utah State undrafted in 2018, wants to play for the same team two years in a row. It's been touch-and-go.

"Tee kept asking me to describe the play to him," Chase said. "I couldn't tell him what happened. He said I'm slow. I'm supposed to burst, I'm supposed to score. I said, 'But I'm trying to set up my next block so I can easily walk in."'

Looking back on it, Chase thinks he could have. Or at least come close. Maybe if he'd hit it faster. Maybe if he'd seen left tackle Jonah Williams knock down the same DB twice. Maybe …

"But I'll take it," Chase said. "It was cool hanging with the boys on the sidelines. It just showed we're growing."

While Chase admitted it was weird being on the sidelines watching with Joe Burrow, the last guy to throw him a ball in January of 2020, Davis is just glad he knows everyone's name.

It wasn't like that back on Nov. 15 last season in Pittsburgh. Davis, cut loose by the Arizona practice squad, signed on the Bengals squad Oct. 27. Confined by the protocols, he hardly got to meet anyone until he checked into the huddle against the Steelers. COVID tests that day had knocked out a chunk of the secondary and head coach Zac Taylor says Davis had to introduce himself before the play call and then playing a career-high 70 percent of the snaps.

"I pretty much have a chip on my shoulder," Davis said. It's my fourth year and I haven't been on the same team two years in a row. Two years in a row. That's my goal."

The 5-10, 185-pound Davis ended up playing six games for the Bengals last season, one more than he had played in his career with Miami (three games in 2018) and Arizona (two games in 2019). His shot is limited since the Bengals have two slot corners ahead of him in Mike Hilton and Darius Phillips and he can pretty much only play the slot. But he's had a terrific camp from the jump and he's been picking Hilton's brain.

"I always talk to him whenever I need to. If I see anything on film, I try to holler at him a little bit," Davis said. "See what he sees and get a little bit off of him. Every day he throws me little nuggets. Every single day I'm trying to get better. I'm just out here trying to make plays. Step-by-step. Day-by-day."

Each day for everybody the theme has been the same after last season generating just 24 turnovers.

"I feel like we're very hungry this year. We're trying to have the most turnovers in the league," said Davis, who noticed one thing about the media podium.

"It's hot up here," Davis said.

Welcome to an NFL preseason, where it's always touch-and-go.